In an epidemiological study of 10,469 cereal-eating physicians taking part in the Physicians' Health Study, those who ate two to six servings of wholegrain breakfast cereals reduced their risk of heart failure by 22 per cent.
The research, presented last week at the American Heart Association's 47th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, adds to an already strong body of evidence linking the consumption of wholegrain products to improvements in cardiovascular health.
"There are good and powerful arguments for eating a wholegrain cereal for breakfast," said lead author Luc Djoussé, from Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "The significant health benefits of wholegrain cereal are not just for kids, but also for adults. A wholegrain, high-fibre breakfast may lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol and prevent heart attacks."
Whole grains have received considerable attention in the last year, especially in the US where the FDA permits foods containing at least 51 percent whole grains by weight and are low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to carry a health claim linking them to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
The term wholegrain is considered to be more consumer-friendly than the term fibre, which leads some manufacturers to favour it on product packaging since it is likely to strike more of a chord of recognition for its healthy benefits.
The new study used food frequency questionnaires to assess the consumption of wholegrain and refined grain cereals and related this to the incidence of heart failure from 1982 to 2006. Of the 10,469 physicians (average age 53.7) who reporting cereal consumption at baseline, 8,266 (79 per cent) ate wholegrain cereals compared to 2,203 (21 per cent) who ate refined cereals.
Djoussé and Michael Gaziano calculated that eating seven or more servings per week was associated with a 28 per cent reduction in the risk of heart failure, while eating two to six servings per week was associated with a 22 per cent risk reduction. Eating only one serving per week reduced the risk of heart failure by 14 per cent, they said.
Heart failure arises when the heart muscle becomes so weak that it can no longer pump blood around the body, and currently afflicts about 14 million people in Europe. This is forecast to increase to 30 million by 2020.
"The Physicians' Health Study shows that even in a population with overall healthy behaviour, it is possible to see less heart failure in those who eat a wholegrain cereal breakfast," said Djoussé.
The study does have several limitations, including relying on self-reporting of food intake which is reliant on the recall of the subjects. In this instance the researchers re-assessed cereal consumption at regular intervals to control for potential changes in cereal consumption.
Further study is required to confirm these findings, with mechanistic studies needed to elucidate exactly how the grains may offer protection against heart failure.
Source: Bio-Bio Technologye